New South Wales / Australian Capital Territory — August 2018

A message from the NSW/ACT State Committee Chair

This eBulletin marks the end of term for the current New South Wales/Australian Capital Territory (NSW/ACT) State Committee and my last message as Chair. I’d like to thank Dr Lucy Deng, Dr Kathy Wu, Dr David Skalicky, Associate Professor John Eastwood, Dr Hong Du, Dr Jane Estrella, Dr Kim Hobbs, Dr Sophie McGilvray, Dr Chandi Perera and Dr Meg Sands, who have recently stepped down from the Committee. These members have been instrumental in the Committee’s policy and advocacy work with key stakeholders such as the NSW Minister for Health, as well as hosting events for members and supporting the College in addressing key issues such as physician health and wellbeing.

The State Committee recently hosted their first Topical Talks event on the Human Gut Microbiome. This event was very well received, with members from a range of specialties attending to hear the latest clinical and research updates regarding the gut microbiome from Professor Emad El-Omar and Professor Thomas Borody. The new NSW/ACT Regional Committee will begin planning more of these events for the remainder of 2018.

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome our new Chair of the NSW/ACT Regional Committee, Dr Adrian Lee, as well as our elected members, Dr Adrian Lee, Dr Ron Granot, Dr Peter Marantos, Dr Nalini Pati and Dr Khalil Soniwala, who will be representing all members based in NSW and the ACT. Our appointed members, Dr Catherine Kelaher, Dr Suharsha Kanathigoda and Dr Surjit Wadhwa will be representing NSW and ACT members within their respective Division, Faculty or Chapter. I wish the new Committee the best of luck as they continue to support and advocate for our members over the next two years.

This edition of the NSW/ACT eBulletin includes an interview with Endocrinologist, Dr Jonathan Marks, on Australia’s obesity dilemma as well as an interview with Occupational Medicine Physician, Dr Han Thai, on medical insurance. You will also find details for our upcoming Private Practice Forum and Topical Talks sessions.

Professor Stephen Clarke 
Chair, NSW/ACT State Committee


A message from the NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee Chairs 

The NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee has been busy running a number of events for trainees over the past few months. Most recently, the Advanced Training Orientation for the Paediatric and Child Health Division, which was held at the Sydney Children’s Hospital in early July. This event was geared towards basic trainees who are soon to become advanced trainees and gave practical advice for being prepared and completing advanced training smoothly, as well as focus on the College Project and sub-specialty requirements.

We are eager to continue holding events that are relevant to trainees. The inaugural Private Practice Forum will be held on 22 September this year. We are also planning an Exams and Wellbeing Forum in Sydney during October and an event in Canberra in November for our ACT-based trainees. Further details regarding these events will be available on the RACP Events webpage shortly.

The NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee is continuing to represent and advocate for the RACP trainees based in NSW and ACT. We encourage all trainees to engage with the Committee and bring forward any issues, comments or queries via email.  

Dr Aimee Wiseman
Paediatric Medicine Co-Chair – NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee

Dr Kiri Langford
Adult Medicine Co-Chair – NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee

Obesity: Australia's big problem

Obesity is an increasing epidemic in Australia, contributing many health conditions across the population.Obesity The latest findings of the Australian Bureau of Statistics from 2014-15 indicate that 63.4 per cent of adults and 27.4 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years, were overweight or obese. This data also ranks New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory as having the lowest and third lowest rates of obesity across Australia.

In an attempt to tackle this epidemic, the Australian Government is considering restrictions on junk food advertisements aimed at children and implementing taxes for sugary drinks. These solutions only consider a small component of this complex issue.

Endocrinologist Dr Jonathan Marks, from the Obesity Clinic at Westmead Hospital’s Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology, takes a patient-centered approach when it comes to tackling obesity, assisting patients to learn about and make sustainable life-style changes. Through changes in diet, exercise and possibly medications, patients can improve their general health and well-being remarkedly.

“Obesity management is almost completely about chronic lifestyle change and this requires excellent skills in salesmanship and counselling, i.e. skills that are not taught in the medical course,” says Dr Marks.

Patients of moderate to severe levels of obesity are referred to the Obesity Clinic at Westmead Hospital for an assessment and development of an individual treatment plan. This involves a consultation with a medical officer, dietician, exercise physiologist and an endocrinologist. Following this, most patients will be seen fortnightly, which is then reduced to monthly and two to three monthly visits for the long term.

For patients who are severely obese and at risk of developing significant medical conditions, bariatric surgery, although expensive, is often recommended. There is a small role for weight loss drugs, but they have a modest effect, are inevitably used short term and are very expensive (not covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Dr Marks says the biggest factors contributing to rising rates of obesity include:

  • increased ease of access to palatable, energy dense food and sugary drinks
  • sedentary lifestyles, which are often attached to a screen at work or at home
  • long commuting times to work or study
  • genetic predisposition to obesity in a number of racial groups, who are then exposed to the above factors
  • widespread and long-term use of psycho-active medications that have weight gain as a side effect.

To help lower the rates of obesity in Australia, Dr Marks encourages physicians to try and avoid or limit their use of prescribing weight-promoting medication and consider using other drugs. “Although other drugs may not be the best fit, they will not promote weight gain, and may even contribute to weight loss in patients who are already obese”, says Dr Marks. This may also assist physicians in treating the patient’s condition they are trying to improve.

For physicians who are considering working in the area of obesity, Dr Marks suggests clinical and basic obesity research as a fascinating area to get involved in, which will bring about many opportunities. There are also the surgical and medical management components of obesity, which are often effective for patients which then translates as a rewarding career for the treating clinician

Learn more about RACP Policy & Advocacy around obesity.

Topical Talks begin with gut health focus

When you have a room full of doctors discussing the human gut microbiome, it’s bound to result in ground-breaking ideas to make the guts of patients a healthier place. Human Gut Microbiome

The Human Gut Microbiome was the focus of the NSW/ACT State Committee's first Topical Talks session on Saturday, 23 June. Around 40 specialists from a range of medical backgrounds attended the event and provided direct feedback saying that it was a “great talk”, “interesting topic” and an “excellent session”.

Professor Emad El-Omar provided insight on current research, discussed the composition of gut bacteria and how this is altered by diet, exercise and medication. The connections between the brain-gut and cancer-gut were also closely examined by Professor El-Omar.

Professor Thomas Borody presented an update on innovative treatment options, such as faecal microbiota transplants, for diseases that are related to the gut microbiome, including inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, clostridium difficile infection and autism. A review of the emerging indications of treatment options was then provided by Professor Borody, before an insightful discussion emerged between both presenters and the attendees.

If you have any suggestions for future areas that can be covered in our ‘Topical Talks’ sessions, please email your ideas to the Committee

Funding available for Fellows in regional areas

Grants worth up to $10,000 are on offer to RACP Fellows who live and work in rural and remote Australia. SRSA logo

To help Fellows undertake Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities, the grants are being offered as part of the Support for Rural Specialists in Australia (SRSA) Program funding round three.

Fellows who receive grants can take part in the CPD activity between 1 November 2018 and 31 December 2019.

Learn more about this opportunity and apply on the SRSA website.

Paediatric Advanced Training Orientation

Many Basic Trainees are currently transitioning to Advanced Training (AT) and to give them an overview of what they can expect in AT, a Paediatric AT Orientation was held on Thursday, 5 July 2018.

The NSW/ACT Trainees’ Committee hosted the event, which began with an overview of the requirements for AT in the Paediatric & Child Health Division.  Paediatric Neurologist Dr Hugo Sampaio then spoke to trainees about what they can expect in their day-to-day life as an AT. Community and Developmental Paediatrician Dr Paul Hotton provided advice to trainees for undertaking their AT Research Project.

Advice if you are about to begin Advanced Training

  • Ask the Education Officer in Basic Training to confirm any outstanding requirements.
  • Check the due dates for your AT applications – otherwise late fees will apply.
  • Read through the AT Handbook for details on requirements.
  • Start the Research Project towards the start of your AT – don’t leave it to your final year.

Hear Topical Talks on Obesity: the 21st century disease

Are you sick of Australia’s obesity crisis being sugar-coated? Would you like some new strategies to manage this weighty issue? Bring your questions and take part in a discussion with some of Australia’s leading experts on obesity, Professor Louise Baur and Dr Nic Kormas. 

Join colleagues on Saturday, 8 September from 9.30am to 12pm at Governor Macquarie Tower in Sydney for this free event. Morning tea will be provided. Fellows attending can claim MyCPD credits for taking part in the event.

Find out more and register to confirm your attendance.

Attend a Private Practice Forum

Are you thinking of working in or starting up your own private practice? Do you currently work in private practice but would like to learn how to successfully manage and run your practice?

Join our presenters to gain insight as to what is involved in effectively organising and setting up your private practice. Topics will cover finances, record keeping and the medico-legal risks associated with billing and social media.

This event will be held at the RACP Sydney Office on Saturday, 22 September 2018. RSVP by emailing the RACP NSW/ACT team.

Bringing medicine to insurance for better patient outcomes

A fascination with the human body piqued in science class paved the way for this doctor to put a different  Medical Insurance  lens on workers compensation cases.

Occupational physician Dr Han Thai is also a general practitioner. He combines seeing patients at his Sydney practice with working at icare*.

Talking about his initial fascination with biology and path to medicine, Dr Thai said: “I was amazed by human anatomy and how the body works. The way we can live in harmony with microorganisms on our skin and inside our body is a marvel.”

“On a personal level, I studied medicine because it allowed me to help people improve their health. It is a privilege to be able hear a person's life story and make a positive difference to their physical and mental health”.

Drawn to occupational medicine when he started to see patients presenting with occupational conditions, Dr Thai brings his training and experience to the world of insurance by reviewing complex workers compensation cases as a member of icare’s Medical Support Panel.

The Medical Support Panel is a group of medical specialists who apply evidence based, best-practice and reasonably necessary principles to help improve health outcomes and the experience for injured workers and employers by reducing decision making timeframes.

Working at an insurance provider was not something Dr Thai imagined while doing his training in occupational medicine, but he says it has been a valuable and enjoyable experience which complements his other medical activities.

“As a treatment provider, my priority is to ensure my patient is recovering and receiving optimal treatment. When reviewing Medical Support Panel cases, this understanding allows me to communicate with patients, treating practitioners and other stakeholders more effectively to achieve the best outcome for the patient.”

Dr Thai says he also sees the Health Benefits of Good Work in action with his patients and through his work at icare.

“We know that work is an important part of overall health and wellbeing. We also know that work can be an important part of the recovery process after an injury, and seeing patients reintegrate with their workplace, even if slowly at first, is great to see.”

*icare delivers world-class insurance and care services to the businesses, people and communities of NSW. Whether a person is severely injured in the workplace or on our roads, icare supports their long-term care needs to improve quality of life, including helping people return to work. icare also insures more than 296,000 NSW employers and their 3.7 million employees.

Take part in the Trainee Research Awards

All trainees are invited to submit abstracts for consideration to present at the RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence competition held in their region.

Trainees who take top honours in each region will be invited to have their abstracts published in the Internal Medical Journal or the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. They will also be given the opportunity to attend the RACP Congress in Auckland, New Zealand in May 2019.  

Abstracts should be submitted to using the abstract guidelines.

All members are invited to attend the NSW/ACT competition which will be held on Thursday, 25 October 2018 at 6pm. Confirm your attendance by emailing the RACP NSW/ACT team

Go to the RACP Trainee Research Awards for Excellence page for more information, including the application and selection process.

College Learning Series offers support

The free College Learning Series (CLS) is an interactive e-learning platform, which provides a range of lectures and resources mapped to the Adult Medicine Division Basic Training curriculum. Accessing the CLS

With three lecture topics added to the CLS  every week, basic trainees can access these educational resources on any device at any time, making the CLS a convenient tool for busy trainees.  

Since the CLS launched in February, more than 2,300 basic trainees across Australia and New Zealand have enrolled.

Check out the CLS and let us know if you have any feedback or if you would like to make any contributions to this e-learning platform by emailing

Need a hire car for work or holiday?

Book your passenger vehicle through your new RACP Member Advantage benefits website to access discounted rentals from popular car hire companies. Member Advantage

Compare the great offers available* and select the one that best suits your vehicle needs. Choose between set rates all year round with a reduced excess^ or a specially negotiated discount off the daily price.

Visit the RACP Member Advantage website to find out more about this offer and get an online quote.

*Terms and conditions apply.
^Offer not available on prestige car vehicles including Audi.

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